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I don’t know that any of us will ever be able to capture or imagine the awe and terror of Isaiah’s vision of a visit to the throne of the Lord. The hem of God’s robe fills the temple; now that’s a big robe!
Seraphim are there, hovering and shouting (though we often think of angels “singing,” the text never really says that they sing.)
The house is shaking and there’s smoke everywhere — much more dramatic than our sanctuaries on most Sundays, I’d say.
The cumulative effect is that Isaiah comes quite undone. “Woe is me,” is the best hymn of praise that he can squawk out. Something about truly seeing God as holy reminds us deeply and painfully that we are not.
And, yet — the call of God comes: “Who will go for us?” Since there’s nobody else present, Isaiah steps us with one of his most famous lines: “Here am I (gulp); send me.”
The old evangelist used to say, “When it comes to the call of God, it’s not your ability God is interested in. It’s your availability!” I kind of like that, even if it makes me nervous!
The psalm text offers accompaniment and counterpoint to Isaiah’s grand vision of God.The emphasis is on the commanding, calling “voice of the LORD.”
This voice is not for the faint of heart, yet it is a source of both strength and peace.
Our readings in Romans 8 continue, opening doors to yet more aspects of the limitless, ever-present Spirit of God.
- The Spirit leads and guides
- The Spirit “puts to death” our fleshly inclinations
- The Spirit does not lead us to fear
- The Spirit allows us to cry out to God, as a young child to a loving, trustworthy father
- The Spirit assures us that we are, indeed, children of God
We have encountered portions of this reading already through the church year; there is much of note in this third chapter of John’s gospel. On Trinity Sunday, however, perhaps the center of the text is found in v. 8:
“The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
One of the most difficult illusions for we human beings to give up is that of control over our lives. Experience teaches us that there are really very few things that are within our capacity to control.
Certainly, we do not control the Spirit of God — anymore than we can control the wind. (As I write these words, we are entering the “hurricane season” in Florida with a tropical storm just off the coast. If you’ve ever survived a hurricane or similar natural disaster, you realize just how little control you have!)
That image helps me connect to Isaiah’s experience in our first reading. His experience of God was somewhat out of control, to the point of being terrifying. Much like the roaring of hurricane-force winds and the sound of trees splitting or being ripped up by their roots.
May we not forget the power we are dealing with when we blithely mention the presence of the Spirit, pronouncing the Spirit’s blessings on the lives of those to whom we preach and with whom we minister.
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
Me, I’m lazy. I use golf theology. Used to play golf with a minister friend of mine and we came up with the term.
Then, being preachers, we started thinking of all those pastor friends we knew who were always trying to improve their theological lie, trying to make things make better sense, etc.And we decided that we were golf theologians; we preferred to take things as they came, to play it as it lay, to whack away in the general direction of heaven.
So, rather than spend a lot of time on the philosophical understanding of the Trinity, I prefer to think a lot about the Trinity’s implications for the Christian life.